Good quality meat is imperative for good quality cooking but with sourcing scandals constantly hitting the headlines how do we make sure we’re getting the best? Why is provenance important? And what do all those labels actually mean?
Why should we buy British?
UK farming offers some of the best farm assurance standards in the world. All our British suppliers are independently audited and accredited to one of the National Farm Assurance schemes controlled by Assured Food Standards, which allow the meat to display the Red Tractor logo.
Not all countries have schemes like this but where we sell or use meat from foreign suppliers we insist that they meet equivalent standards.
What about all the other labels? Sometimes it's hard to know what means what...
Red Tractor is a food assurance scheme covering food safety, hygiene, welfare and the environment. The Red Tractor logo means that a product or ingredient has met agreed production standards and is fully traceable back to independently inspected UK farms.
The Freedom Food label indicates that animals have come from systems that meet RSPCA welfare standards. This covers the whole of an animal’s life, not just their time on a farm. Freedom Food approves indoor farms as well as free range and organic.
On meat, the organic logo means that animals are free range. It also assures that living conditions, food quality, the use of antibiotics and hormones, as well as how food and animals are transported and the way animals are slaughtered, meet expected standards. The green leaf logo is the EU organic logo, and the black and white badge is the Soil Association organic logo.
These are European Union schemes known as Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG). The EU Protected Food Name scheme highlights regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed.
These are equivalent to the Red Tractor scheme but also cover production and eating quality of the final meat product.
This is another farm assurance scheme that guarantees the beef (there is also a Scotch lamb) comes from Scotland. Both these schemes are also Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs), meaning they are 100% traceable back to Scottish farms.
Where does Co-op’s British meat come from?
We develop direct long term relationships with a group of known, dedicated farmers on all of our standard pork and chicken and premium beef and lamb, to deliver a transparent supply chain built on honesty, fairness and trust. These Co-operative Farming Groups are made up of around 850 carefully selected farmers who grow and rear The Co-op’s fresh meat with passion, and to high standards. They offer visibility to the supply chain for customers and members.
Are customers concerned about the UK farming industry?
In a survey commissioned by The Co-operative earlier this year, 72% said it was very important that the UK has a sustainable farming industry, with 22% saying it was quite important. Our customers and members also look to us for clarity when it comes to where our meat comes from so they know they can trust our products. Animal welfare, protecting the environment and fairness in the supply chain are also really important to them.